WASHINGTON (AP) — The debate over using an anti-malaria drug that has not yet officially been approved for fighting COVID-19 has erupted.
Trump administration adviser Peter Navarro on Monday emphatically promoted using the drug even though scientists say more testing is needed before it’s clear it’s safe and effective against the virus.
Navarro is a trade adviser who is on the White House coronavirus task force. He acknowledged on CNN that he had a heated debate over the drug with top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci during a weekend meeting in the Situation Room.
Fauci says the current studies provide only anecdotal findings that the drug works. Navarro says he responded: “I would have two words for you ‘second opinion.’”
The drug hydroxychloroquine is officially approved for treating malaria, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, but not COVID-19.
Small, preliminary studies have suggested it might help prevent coronavirus from entering cells and possibly help patients clear the virus sooner. Doctors can already prescribe the malaria drug to patients with COVID-19, a practice known as off-label prescribing.
But Fauci says more testing is needed before it’s clear that the drug works against the coronavirus.
Navarro told “Fox & Friends” that doctors in New York hospitals are already giving out the drug to COVID-19 patients and that health care workers are taking it in hopes it will protect them from being infected.
He says the confrontation in the Situation Room was over whether the administration should take 29 million doses of the drug in FEMA warehouses and surge them into hard-hit cities. It was unanimous that it should be done.
Asked on CNN why he thinks he’s qualified to dispute Fauci, Navarro cited his doctorate degree in social science.
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